Military Readiness:

Management Focus Needed on Airfields for Overseas Deployments

GAO-01-566: Published: Jun 14, 2001. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2001.

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The National Military Strategy calls for the Department of Defense (DOD) to maintain the transportation capability to quickly move the large amounts of personnel and equipment needed to win two nearly simultaneous major theater wars anywhere in the world. To provide this mobility, DOD relies on a transportation system--the En Route System (ERS)--that includes an airlift fleet of cargo aircraft and a critical network of overseas airfields that provide logistical support to aircraft on their way to the war zones. Although the two-war requirement and other aspects of the National Military Strategy are now under review by the new administration, the ERS remains critically important as the primary means of quickly moving U.S. soldiers and equipment to areas of conflict around the world. This report addresses (1) whether en-route airfields have the capacity to meet the requirements of the National Military Strategy, (2) the causes of any shortfalls and DOD's plans to correct them, and (3) whether DOD has the information and management structure needed to ensure that the operations of the ERS can be carried out efficiently and effectively.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD generally did not concur with the report, but partially concurred with this recommendation. It believed that base-level management of the En Route System (ERS) airfields is best performed by the responsible services, but agreed to consider whether one organization should be designated as responsible for some matters, as appropriate. However, formal action to identify which matters and which organization should be responsible has not yet begun.

    Recommendation: To improve the visibility of the ERS and reduce the risk of management problems and inefficiencies, the Secretary of Defense should make one organization responsible for strategic management and coordination of overall ERS operations during peacetime.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Following issuance of GAO's report, the European and Pacific En Route Infrastructure Steering Committees formulated a strategic plan for the En Route System (ERS) as GAO recommended. The plan was subsequently incorporated and validated in DOD's Mobility Requirements Study 2005 (MRS-05). DOD stated that it would monitor compliance with the plan through its Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System and would continue to review and improve the plan over time.

    Recommendation: To improve the visibility of the ERS and reduce the risk of management problems and inefficiencies, the Secretary of Defense should develop an overall strategic plan and monitoring system for the ERS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation. It believed that the overall Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System provides adequate documentation and oversight of the rationales for plans to repair and improve the En Route System (ERS). GAO continues to believe that a clearly documented cost study of the ERS construction plans is needed. GAO's experience has shown that relying exclusively on the budget process to document funding rationales often results only in inferences as to why decisions were made. This process lacks the benefit of clear information on the pros and cons of available choices or the guiding principles used to make funding decisions. DOD's annual requests for funds contain no evidence that projects are prioritized by importance or that progress toward goals such as modernizing the ERS is being made in an efficient and timely fashion.

    Recommendation: To improve the visibility of the ERS and reduce the risk of management problems and inefficiencies, the Secretary of Defense should develop an overall cost-benefit study to document the rationales for plans to repair and improve the ERS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation. It believed that sufficiently detailed information on the En Route System (ERS) limitations and performance is already reported in DOD mobility requirements studies, annual budget justification documents, and the Quarterly Readiness Report to Congress. GAO disagrees that it is appropriate to exclude information on ERS performance from DOD's annual report while including information on the other elements of strategic mobility. Air Mobility Command reports cite ERS infrastructure as the top limiting factor in deployment operations. Omitting ERS information from the key annual performance report gives an incomplete and misleading view of strategic mobility capabilities.

    Recommendation: To improve the visibility of the ERS and reduce the risk of management problems and inefficiencies, the Secretary of Defense should include information on ERS limitations and how they affect the Department's strategic mobility performance in DOD's performance plan and report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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